It seems like that whenever a new system launches, a new Ridge Racer game soon follows. While some of them have been pretty good, others fail to live up to expectations. Ridge Racer for the PlayStation Vita falls into the latter category. What should have been a game that shows off what Sony’s machine is capable of, Ridge Racer fails to deliver. It feels less like a retail release and more like a demo.
The returning framework for Ridge Racer is there, with drift-heavy racing, looping tracks and the techno soundtrack that gets me pumped to race. Admittedly, I am not the biggest racing fan in the world, but I have played enough to know that content is key. Lots of cars, courses, stats make players come back to racing games time and again. Ridge Racer just does not deliver any of these features.
When I downloaded the game, I expected to see a wide variety of cars and tracks. I was surprised to find that there were only three courses and a handful of cars, with each of the vehicles looking too similar. Worse, the courses looked pretty bland. There are a few more cars and tracks available to download for free in the PlayStation Store, but the lack of inclusion of these essential game play elements in the retail release tells me that the game was rushed to the market.
When I booted the game up, the first thing I noticed was the sleek menu. Here, you can check your trophies, view gameplay stats and rankings, access your garage and start a race. There are also “interviews” with top racers, which are essentially comments from some ranked players.
After messing around with the menu for a bit, I decided to start my career and see what the racing was like. I picked my team (choose wisely, you’re locked in), picked my car and changed its color. I was ready to hit the track. The racing was what I expected from a Ridge Racer game: a lot of drifting. I never once hit the brakes taking a turn.
While I did have some fun, it was short lived, and I noticed that the AI opponents rarely, if ever, make any mistakes. This makes catching them harder than it should be. A single error in judgment, collision with a wall or skid off the track typically means falling too far behind to even bother trying to finish the race. No matter how hard I tried, I could not catch up to them. Even using all my nitrous I built up couldn’t get me remotely close to the leaders. I learned from my mistakes and tried the race again. This time, I didn’t hit any walls and found myself in first place. I shouldn’t be so severely punished for hitting walls. The need for flawless racing was frustrating, especially as the game offers no middle ground.
After my disappointing race, I was back in the menu and saw what I thought would be a cool little feature: the Team Vision panel. In this panel, you can check daily out goals for your team. These typically challenge you to defeat a rival team’s racer. This would be fine if there were some sort of backstory for each of the teams. There was no care put into this aspect of the game and I was unable to return any in kind. The only reward I got for beating a rival was credits. In fact, that’s the only reward you get for anything in the game.
When enough credits are earned, you can spend them to customize your car. This is another area of the game that feels tacked on. Instead of choosing where to focus your upgrades, there is a map that only directs your enhancements. For example, the first thing that can be improved is nitrous. Only once that is taken care of can you proceed to upgrade something else. This makes no sense to me. Why can’t I pick which parts I want to upgrade?
After being let down in the “career” mode, I wanted to see how online would fare. There are very few options here. I could create a lobby for the general public or limit it to friends. While paying online, racing allows you to level up. Competing as a new driver against a racer who is a level 4, for example, puts you at a huge disadvantage. As you progress, your car’s speed increases. This unbalances the game, making it nearly impossible to defeat someone who has put more time into the online mode. Thankfully, there is an option to restrict play to opponents at the same level as you. The online play is smooth, and there is no lag at all. Those are the only two bright points, though. A lack of options bites the online mode as it did in single player.
The Vita’s touchscreens are used very little in Ridge Racer. The front screen is mainly used for navigating the menu, but can be used during a race. If you touch the left side of the screen, it serves as a rear view mirror. Since you have to take your thumb off the stick to do this, it seems pointless, as you will lose control of the car. The back screen is used to shift the car if you use an automatic. That is pretty much it for the touch screens.
Ridge Racer for the PS Vita is the epitome of disappointment. With a serious lack of options and content, racing fans will be let down at every turn by Namco’s latest offering. The game is good for a quick pick up, and only then, the appeal wears off after one or two races. You can see everything this game has to offer in under an hour. I feel as though this game was rushed to make the launch of the Vita, which was not necessary. If more time had been spent making this game worthy of the Ridge Racer name, it would have given Vita owners a great racing experience. Instead, we are left with something that is barely a demo.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.